Daily Archives: August 12, 2022

Working-Class Hero [CINDERELLA MAN]

From the Chicago Reader (June 10. 2005). — J.R.

Cinderella Man

*** (A must see)

Directed by Ron Howard

Written by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldman

With Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill, and Ron Canada

Ron Howard is an exemplar of honorable mediocrity. His films are conventional and stuffed with cliches, but their nice-guy liberalism is more sincere and nuanced than their tropes would lead one to expect. In his better efforts — Night Shift, Far and Away, Parenthood, The Paper, and now Cinderella Man — the sense of conviction is so passionate that the truth behind the cliches periodically emerges.

This is Howard’s first feature since the award-winning A Beautiful Mind, and the storytelling is fluid and gripping. He has plenty of cliches to peddle about boxing and working-class virtues in the midst of deprivation during the Depression, and the visual rhetoric in which he couches those cliches even give them a metaphysical dimension. The decor is as underlit as it is in Million Dollar Baby, and the cinematography’s even more mannerist in fetishizing darkness to project an aura of doom and desperation. In the deftly staged prizefight sequences, Howard goes even further than Clint Eastwood did in rendering subjective impressions in expressionistic terms. Read more

Park Row

From the Chicago Reader (February 5, 1999). — J.R.


This neglected feature is one of Samuel Fuller’s most energetic — his own personal favorite, in part because he financed it out of his own pocket and lost every penny (1952). It’s a giddy look at New York journalism in the 1880s that crams together a good many of Fuller’s favorite newspaper stories, legends, and conceits and places them in socko headline type. A principled cigar smoker (Gene Evans) becomes the hard-hitting editor of a new Manhattan daily, where he competes with his former employer (Mary Welch) in a grudge match full of sexual undertones; a man jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge trying to become famous; the Statue of Liberty is given to the U.S. by France, and a newspaper drive raises money for its pedestal. Enthusiasm flows into every nook and cranny of this exceptionally cozy movie; when violence breaks out in the cramped-looking set of the title street, the camera weaves in and out of the buildings as through a sports arena, in a single take. The phrase “Park Row” is repeated incessantly like a crazy mantra, and the overall fervor of this vest-pocket Citizen Kane makes journalism sound like the most exciting activity in the world, even as it turns all its practitioners into members of a Fuller-esque military squad. Read more